After the big Pineapple Square proposal got another vote of confidence last week from Sarasota city commissioners, some of them essentially told their staff to make the project happen. Whatever that might mean, the phrase has a troubling ring -- for two reasons:
- While a couple of individual commissioners may want staff to make it happen, that is not the commission's official policy directive. The 4-1 vote Tuesday was not to finalize Pineapple Square, but rather to incrementally approve term-sheet revisions and start deeper contract negotiations.
- No matter how much conceptual support Pineapple Square enjoys, it cannot be built until and unless the developer wins approval of several key components -- a still-to-come process that should be handled with rigorous objectivity by city staff and, of course, commissioners.
We also were troubled by the comments directed toward the City Manager and his staff at the close of this portion of the meeting.
Since the city commissioners have chosen to invest upwards of $18M in city property and funds, it would seem prudent, at the least, to make sure all the facts concerning this proposal are laid out for public scrutiny. The city staff needs to be able to do this without "veiled directives". This needs to be done openly, fully and with attention to detail. We need to get beyond outright dismissal of the parking and appraisal consultants' expertise. Their input needs to be reviewed and honestly discussed.
A proposal of this magnitude must not be swept out of public view by telling the staff to "make it happen, now."